RNR Dundee: Summary

Royal Naval Reserve first formed in Dundee in 1861. It rapidly gained in strength, given a Drill Ship, the frigate HMS Brilliant, in 1862, and by 1866 Dundee ranked 5th in the United Kingdom, with a strength of 1014. Further expansion of this force within Scotland resulted in the arrival of the 46 gun frigate HMS Unicorn in 1873, and the departure of Brilliant for Inverness.

The personal drive and influence of the Duke of Montrose, resulted in the formation, in 1903, of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), with Divisions in London, Bristol, the Mersey and the Clyde.  The following year, 1904, the Dundee Company of Clyde Division was formed, and took over HMS Unicorn in 1906.

In 1914, on the outbreak of the Great War, despite its members having volunteered and trained for service at sea, the RNVR was mobilised and marched off to the trenches as the Royal Naval Division.

The RNVR reformed after the Great War, and, in 1926, Dundee took command of the East Scottish Division RNVR with units in Leith and Edinburgh.

The RNVR mobilised for the Second World War and played an integral part in every aspect of the naval war, and served with particular distinction in the long, hard struggle to win the Battle of the Atlantic.

In 1946, Tay Division RNVR was reformed, and in the same year the first of a series of minesweepers was attached to the Division as its Sea Tender. This first ship, Motor Minesweeper FY233, was renamed HMS Montrose in honour of the Duke of Montrose, who had played such a great part in the formation of the RNVR. The RNVR had achieved immense seagoing credibility during World War II, and in 1946 the first of many training periods entirely manned and commanded by the RNVR was organised by Tay Division in HMS Montrose. In 1955, Montrose again set a precedent when she escorted the Queen, in HM Yacht Britannia, up the River Tay, and this example was later repeated by other Divisions.

In 1968 the Ministry of Defence decided that Tay Division should move ashore and in 1969 the Division transferred to a purpose built Sea Training Centre, named HMS Camperdown. The naming of HMS Camperdown was carried out by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on the 21st of October 1970.

The defence cuts of 1975 ended the 29-year-old tradition of Tay Division Sea Tenders named Montrose. Tay Division became part of the North East Group (Forth, Tay & Tyne). The same cuts greatly reduced the Supply and Technical branches, but were slightly compensated by increased emphasis on Naval Control of Shipping. Although Dundee was no longer designated as a Port Headquarters, Tay Division took over much of the responsibility for the Port Headquarters in Aberdeen, and also forged much closer links with the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service.

The 1980s saw a significant expansion planned for the RNR, and in 1985 Tay Division took delivery of a brand-new River Class Fleet Minesweeper, HMS Helmsdale. She remained in Dundee until 1990, when, as an early victim of post Cold War defence cuts, she was placed in “maintenance by preservation” in Portsmouth Naval Base. Despite this major setback, Tay Division continued an active programme of sea training using borrowed hulls.

In accordance with the Government policy outlined in “The Future of Britain’s Reserve Forces” Tay Division RNR ceased training after 133 years on the 31st March 1994.

In September 1999 Tay Division reopened for recruitment and training as a satellite unit of HMS Scotia.

Tay Division is now based in the TA centre at Oliver Barracks, Dundee and trains on a Monday night, with the opportunity to attend training at HMS Scotia (Rosyth) on a Thursday.